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Publication numberUS8057325 B2
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 13/008,012
Publication dateNov 15, 2011
Filing dateJan 17, 2011
Priority dateApr 23, 2007
Also published asUS7871342, US20090005194, US20110111886
Publication number008012, 13008012, US 8057325 B2, US 8057325B2, US-B2-8057325, US8057325 B2, US8057325B2
InventorsJeffrey L. Dalton, William E. Morgan, Michael J. Sullivan, Derek A. Ladd
Original AssigneeAcushnet Company
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Golf balls having two or more core layers formed from HNP compositions
US 8057325 B2
Abstract
The present invention is directed to golf balls consisting of a dual-layer core and a cover. The core consists of an inner core layer formed from a relatively hard HNP composition and an outer core layer formed from a relatively soft HNP composition. The outer core layer has an outer surface hardness less than the outer surface hardness of the inner core layer.
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Claims(7)
1. A golf ball comprising a core and a cover, wherein the core has an overall diameter of from 1.400 inches to 1.660 inches and comprises:
an inner core layer having a diameter of from 0.125 inches to 1.000 inches, an outer surface hardness of from 80 Shore C to 95 Shore C, and formed from a first HNP composition, the first HNP composition having a material hardness of 45 Shore D or greater and comprising a highly neutralized ethylene/(meth)acrylic acid copolymer;
an intermediate core layer formed from a rubber composition and having a thickness of from 0.050 inches to 0.400 inches; and
an outer core layer having an outer surface hardness less than the outer surface hardness of the inner core layer, and formed from a second HNP composition, the second HNP composition having a material hardness of 55 Shore D or less and comprising a highly neutralized ethylene/(meth)acrylic acid/alkyl (meth)acrylate copolymer.
2. The golf ball of claim 1, wherein the outer core layer has a specific gravity greater than or equal to the inner core layer specific gravity.
3. The golf ball of claim 1, wherein the core has an overall diameter of from 1.510 inches to 1.600 inches.
4. The golf ball of claim 1, wherein the inner core layer has a diameter of from 0.250 inches to 0.375 inches.
5. The golf ball of claim 1, wherein the cover consists of a single layer having an outer surface hardness of 60 Shore D or less and a thickness of from 0.015 inches to 0.100 inches.
6. The golf ball of claim 1, wherein the cover consists of:
an inner cover layer having an outer surface hardness of 65 Shore D or greater and a thickness of from 0.020 inches to 0.080 inches; and
an outer cover layer having an outer surface hardness of 60 Shore D or less and a thickness of from 0.015 inches to 0.055 inches.
7. The golf ball of claim 1, wherein the cover consists of:
an inner cover layer formed from a partially or fully neutralized polymer composition and having an outer surface hardness of 65 Shore D or greater and a thickness of from 0.015 inches to 0.035 inches; and
an outer cover layer formed from a polyurethane or polyurea composition and having a material hardness of 50 Shore D or less and a thickness of from 0.015 inches to 0.035 inches.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/204,891, filed Sep. 5, 2008 now U.S. Pat. No. 7,871,342, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/738,740, filed Apr. 23, 2007, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,468,006, and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/972,227, filed Jan. 10, 2008 now abandoned. The entire disclosure of each of these references is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to golf balls comprising a core and a cover, wherein the core consists of a layer formed from a relatively soft HNP composition and a layer formed from a relatively hard HNP composition. The present invention is not limited by which core layer is formed from the soft HNP composition and which core layer is formed from the hard HNP composition, so long as both layers are present in the core of the golf ball.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Conventional golf balls can be divided into two general classes: solid and wound. Solid golf balls include one-piece, two-piece (i.e., single layer core and single layer cover), and multi-layer (i.e., solid core of one or more layers and/or a cover of one or more layers) golf balls. Wound golf balls typically include a solid, hollow, or fluid-filled center, surrounded by a tensioned elastomeric material, and a cover.

Golf ball core and cover layers are typically constructed with polymer compositions including, for example, polybutadiene rubber, polyurethanes, polyamides, ionomers, and blends thereof. Ionomers, particularly ethylene-based ionomers, are a preferred group of polymers for golf ball layers because of their toughness, durability, and wide range of hardness values.

Golf ball compositions comprising highly neutralized acid polymers are known. For example, U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2003/0130434, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference, discloses melt-processable, highly-neutralized ethylene acid copolymers and process for making them by incorporating an aliphatic, mono-functional organic acid in the acid copolymer and then neutralizing greater than 90% of all the acid groups present. The use of such compositions in various golf ball layers is disclosed. Also, U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2005/0148725, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference, discloses a highly-resilient thermoplastic composition comprising (a) an acid copolymer, (b) a salt of a high molecular weight, monomeric organic acid; (c) a thermoplastic resin; (d) a cation source; and (e) optionally, a filler. The reference also discloses one-piece, two-piece, three-piece, and multi-layered golf balls comprising the highly-resilient thermoplastic composition.

While various uses for highly neutralized acid polymers in golf balls have been discovered, there is a need in the industry to broaden the applicability of highly neutralized acid polymers to particular golf ball constructions having desirable spin, feel, and COR properties. The present invention provides such golf ball constructions through the use of a layer formed from a relatively soft HNP composition and a layer formed from a relatively hard HNP composition.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one embodiment, the present invention is directed to a golf ball consisting of a core and a cover, wherein the core has an overall diameter of from 1.400 inches to 1.660 inches and consists of an inner core layer and an outer core layer. The inner core layer has a diameter of from 0.125 inches to 0.750 inches, an outer surface hardness of 70 Shore C or greater, and is formed from a first HNP composition. The first HNP composition has a material hardness of 45 Shore D or greater and comprises a highly neutralized ethylene/(meth)acrylic acid copolymer. The outer core layer has an outer surface hardness less than the outer surface hardness of the inner core layer and is formed from a second HNP composition. The second HNP composition has a material hardness of 55 Shore D or less and comprises a highly neutralized ethylene/(meth)acrylic acid/alkyl (meth)acrylate copolymer.

In another embodiment, the present invention is directed to a golf ball consisting of a core and a cover. The core has an overall diameter of from 1.400 inches to 1.620 inches and consists of an inner core layer and an outer core layer. The inner core layer has a diameter of from 0.250 inches to 0.500 inches, an outer surface hardness of 81 Shore C or greater, and is formed from a first HNP composition. The first HNP composition has a material hardness of 45 Shore D or greater and comprises a highly neutralized ethylene/(meth)acrylic acid copolymer. The outer core layer has an outer surface hardness of 90 Shore C or less and is formed from a second HNP composition. The second HNP composition has a material hardness of 55 Shore D or less and comprises a highly neutralized ethylene/(meth)acrylic acid/alkyl (meth)acrylate copolymer. The cover consists of inner cover layer and an outer cover layer. The inner cover layer has an outer surface hardness of 65 Shore D or greater and a thickness of from 0.020 inches to 0.080 inches. The outer cover layer has a surface hardness of 60 Shore D or less and a thickness of from 0.015 inches to 0.055 inches.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Golf balls of the present invention have at least two layers formed from highly neutralized acid polymer (“HNP”) compositions. More particularly, golf balls of the present invention have at least one layer formed from a relatively soft HNP composition, and at least one layer formed from a relatively hard HNP composition.

As used herein, “highly neutralized acid polymer” refers to an acid polymer after at least 80%, preferably at least 90%, more preferably at least 95%, and even more preferably 100%, of the acid groups of the acid polymer are neutralized.

Relatively Soft HNP Composition

Relatively soft HNP compositions of the present invention have a material hardness of 80 Shore D or less, and preferably have a Shore D hardness of 55 or less or a Shore D hardness within a range having a lower limit of 10 or 20 or 30 or 37 or 39 or 40 or 45 and an upper limit of 48 or 50 or 52 or 55 or 60 or 80.

Relatively soft HNP compositions of the present invention comprise at least one highly neutralized acid polymer. In a preferred embodiment, the highly neutralized acid polymer of the relatively soft HNP composition is a low modulus HNP having a modulus within a range having a lower limit of 1,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 psi and an upper limit of 17,000 or 25,000 or 28,000 or 30,000 or 35,000 or 45,000 or 50,000 or 55,000 psi. In a particular aspect of this embodiment, the modulus of the low modulus HNP is at least 10% less, or at least 20% less, or at least 25% less, or at least 30% less, or at least 35% less, than that of the high modulus HNP discussed below.

As used herein, “modulus” refers to flexural modulus as measured using a standard flex bar according to ASTM D790-B.

HNPs of the relatively soft HNP compositions of the present invention are salts of acid copolymers. It is understood that the HNP may be a blend of two or more HNPs. The acid copolymer of the HNP is an O/X/Y-type copolymer, wherein O is an α-olefin, X is a C3-C8 α,β-ethylenically unsaturated carboxylic acid, and Y is a softening monomer. O is preferably ethylene. X is preferably selected from (meth) acrylic acid, ethacrylic acid, maleic acid, crotonic acid, fumaric acid, and itaconic acid. (Meth) acrylic acid is particularly preferred. As used herein, “(meth) acrylic acid” means methacrylic acid and/or acrylic acid. Likewise, “(meth) acrylate” means methacrylate and/or acrylate. Y is preferably an alkyl (meth) acrylate, wherein the alkyl groups have from 1 to 8 carbon atoms. Preferred O/X/Y-type copolymers are those wherein O is ethylene, X is (meth) acrylic acid, and Y is selected from (meth) acrylate, n-butyl (meth) acrylate, isobutyl (meth) acrylate, methyl (meth) acrylate, and ethyl (meth) acrylate. Particularly preferred O/X/Y-type copolymers are ethylene/(meth) acrylic acid/n-butyl acrylate, ethylene/(meth) acrylic acid/methyl acrylate, and ethylene/(meth) acrylic acid/ethyl acrylate.

The acid copolymer of the HNP typically includes the α-olefin in an amount of at least 15 wt %, or at least 25 wt %, or at least 40 wt %, or at least 60 wt %, based on the total weight of the acid copolymer. The amount of C3-C8 α,β-ethylenically unsaturated carboxylic acid in the acid copolymer is typically within a range having a lower limit of 1 or 4 or 6 or 8 or 10 or 15 wt % and an upper limit of 20 or 35 or 40 wt %, based on the total weight of the acid copolymer. The amount of softening monomer in the acid copolymer is typically within a range having a lower limit of 1 or 3 or 5 or 11 or 15 or 20 wt % and an upper limit of 23 or 25 or 30 or 35 or 50 wt %, based on the total weight of the acid copolymer.

Particularly suitable acid copolymers of the HNP of the relatively soft HNP composition include very low modulus ionomer-(“VLMI-”) type ethylene-acid polymers, such as Surlyn® 6320, Surlyn® 8120, Surlyn® 8320, and Surlyn® 9320. Surlyn® ionomers are commercially available from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. Also suitable are DuPont® HPF 1000 and DuPont® HPF 2000, ionomeric materials commercially available from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.

Additional suitable acid copolymers are disclosed, for example, in U.S. Patent Application Publication Nos. 2005/0148725, 2005/0020741, 2004/0220343, and 2003/0130434, and U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,691,418, 6,562,906, 6,653,382, 6,777,472, 6,762,246, and 6,815,480, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

In a preferred embodiment, the HNP of the relatively soft HNP composition is formed by reacting an acid copolymer, which is optionally partially neutralized, with a sufficient amount of cation source, in the presence of a high molecular weight organic acid or salt thereof, such that at least 80%, preferably at least 90%, more preferably at least 95%, and even more preferably 100%, of all acid groups present are neutralized. The acid copolymer can be reacted with the high molecular weight organic acid or salt thereof and the cation source simultaneously, or the acid copolymer can be reacted with the high molecular weight organic acid prior to the addition of the cation source.

Suitable high molecular weight organic acids are aliphatic organic acids, aromatic organic acids, saturated monofunctional organic acids, unsaturated monofunctional organic acids, multi-unsaturated monofunctional organic acids, and dimerized derivatives thereof. Particular examples of suitable organic acids include, but are not limited to, caproic acid, caprylic acid, capric acid, lauric acid, stearic acid, behenic acid, erucic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, myristic acid, benzoic acid, palmitic acid, phenylacetic acid, naphthalenoic acid, dimerized derivatives thereof, and combinations thereof. Salts of high molecular weight organic acids comprise the salts, particularly the barium, lithium, sodium, zinc, bismuth, chromium, cobalt, copper, potassium, stontium, titanium, tungsten, magnesium, and calcium salts, of aliphatic organic acids, aromatic organic acids, saturated monofunctional organic acids, unsaturated monofunctional organic acids, multi-unsaturated monofunctional organic acids, dimerized derivatives thereof, and combinations thereof. Suitable organic acids and salts thereof are more fully described, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,756,436, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Suitable cation sources include metal ions and compounds of alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, and transition metals; metal ions and compounds of rare earth elements; silicone, silane, and silicate derivatives and complex ligands; and combinations thereof. Preferred cation sources are metal ions and compounds of magnesium, sodium, potassium, cesium, calcium, barium, manganese, copper, zinc, tin, lithium, and rare earth metals. The acid copolymer may be at least partially neutralized prior to contacting the acid copolymer with the cation source to form the HNP. Methods of preparing ionomers are well known, and are disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 3,264,272, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference. The acid copolymer can be a direct copolymer wherein the polymer is polymerized by adding all monomers simultaneously, as disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 4,351,931, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference. Alternatively, the acid copolymer can be a graft copolymer wherein a monomer is grafted onto an existing polymer, as disclosed, for example, in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2002/0013413, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Relatively soft HNP compositions of the present invention optionally contain one or more melt flow modifiers. The amount of melt flow modifier in the composition is readily determined such that the melt flow index of the composition is at least 0.1 g/10 min, preferably from 0.5 g/10 min to 10.0 g/10 min, and more preferably from 1.0 g/10 min to 6.0 g/10 min, as measured using ASTM D-1238, condition E, at 190° C., using a 2160 gram weight.

Suitable melt flow modifiers include, but are not limited to, high molecular weight organic acids and salts thereof, polyamides, polyesters, polyacrylates, polyurethanes, polyethers, polyureas, polyhydric alcohols, and combinations thereof. Suitable organic acids are aliphatic organic acids, aromatic organic acids, saturated mono-functional organic acids, unsaturated monofunctional organic acids, multi-unsaturated mono-functional organic acids, and dimerized derivatives thereof. Particular examples of suitable organic acids include, but are not limited to, caproic acid, caprylic acid, capric acid, lauric acid, stearic acid, behenic acid, erucic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, myristic acid, benzoic acid, palmitic acid, phenylacetic acid, naphthalenoic acid, dimerized derivatives thereof. Suitable organic acids are more fully described, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,756,436, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Additional melt flow modifiers suitable for use in compositions of the present invention, include the non-fatty acid melt flow modifiers described in copending U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 11/216,725 and 11/216,726, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Relatively soft HNP compositions of the present invention optionally include additive(s) and/or filler(s) in an amount of 50 wt % or less, or 30 wt % or less, or 15 wt % or less, based on the total weight of the relatively soft HNP composition. Suitable additives and fillers include, but are not limited to, chemical blowing and foaming agents, optical brighteners, coloring agents, fluorescent agents, whitening agents, UV absorbers, light stabilizers, defoaming agents, processing aids, mica, talc, nano-fillers, antioxidants, stabilizers, softening agents, fragrance components, plasticizers, impact modifiers, TiO2, acid copolymer wax, surfactants, and fillers, such as zinc oxide, tin oxide, barium sulfate, zinc sulfate, calcium oxide, calcium carbonate, zinc carbonate, barium carbonate, clay, tungsten, tungsten carbide, silica, lead silicate, regrind (recycled material), and mixtures thereof. Suitable additives are more fully described in, for example, U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2003/0225197, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Relatively soft HNP compositions of the present invention optionally contain a high modulus HNP.

In a particular embodiment, the relatively soft HNP composition has a moisture vapor transmission rate of 8 g-mil/100 in2/day or less (i.e., 3.2 g-mm/m2·day or less), or 5 g-mil/100 in2/day or less (i.e., 2.0 g-mm/m2·day or less), or 3 g-mil/100 in2/day or less (i.e., 1.2 g-mm/m2·day or less), or 2 g-mil/100 in2/day or less (i.e., 0.8 g-mm/m2·day or less), or 1 g-mil/100 in2/day or less (i.e., 0.4 g-mm/m2·day or less), or less than 1 g-mil/100 in2/day (i.e., less than 0.4 g-mm/m2·day). As used herein, moisture vapor transmission rate (“MVTR”) is given in g-mil/100 in2/day, and is measured at 20° C. and according to ASTM F1249-99. In a preferred aspect of this embodiment, the relatively soft HNP composition comprises a low modulus HNP prepared using a cation source which is less hydrophilic than conventional magnesium-based cation sources. Suitable moisture resistant HNP compositions are disclosed, for example, in U.S. Patent Application Publication Nos. 2005/0267240, 2006/0106175 and 2006/0293464, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

In another particular embodiment, a sphere formed from the relatively soft HNP composition has a compression of 80 or less, or 70 or less, or 65 or less, or 60 or less, or 50 or less, or 40 or less, or 30 or less, or 20 or less.

Relatively soft HNP compositions of the present invention are not limited by any particular method or any particular equipment for making the compositions. In a preferred embodiment, the composition is prepared by the following process. The acid polymer(s), preferably a VLMI-type ethylene-acid terpolymer, high molecular weight organic acid(s) or salt(s) thereof, and optionally additive(s)/filler(s) are simultaneously or individually fed into a melt extruder, such as a single or twin screw extruder. A suitable amount of cation source is simultaneously or subsequently added such that at least 80%, preferably at least 90%, more preferably at least 95%, and even more preferably 100%, of all acid groups present are neutralized. The acid polymer may be at least partially neutralized prior to the above process. The components are intensively mixed prior to being extruded as a strand from the die-head.

Relatively soft HNP compositions of the present invention may be blended with one or more additional polymers, such as thermoplastic polymers and elastomers. Examples of thermoplastic polymers suitable for blending include, but are not limited to, bimodal ionomers (e.g., as disclosed in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2004/0220343 and U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,562,906, 6,762,246 and 7,273,903, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference), ionomers modified with rosins (e.g., as disclosed in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2005/0020741, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated by reference), soft and resilient ethylene copolymers (e.g., as disclosed U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2003/0114565, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference) polyolefins, polyamides, polyesters, polyethers, polycarbonates, polysulfones, polyacetals, polylactones, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene resins, polyphenylene oxide, polyphenylene sulfide, styrene-acrylonitrile resins, styrene maleic anhydride, polyimides, aromatic polyketones, ionomers and ionomeric precursors, acid copolymers, conventional HNPs, polyurethanes, grafted and non-grafted metallocene-catalyzed polymers, single-site catalyst polymerized polymers, high crystalline acid polymers, cationic ionomers, and combinations thereof. Particular polyolefins suitable for blending include one or more, linear, branched, or cyclic, C2-C40 olefins, particularly polymers comprising ethylene or propylene copolymerized with one or more C2-C40 olefins, C3-C20 α-olefins, or C3-C10 α-olefins. Particular conventional HNPs suitable for blending include, but are not limited to, one or more of the HNPs disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,756,436, 6,894,098, and 6,953,820, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference. Examples of elastomers suitable for blending with the invention polymers include natural and synthetic rubbers, including, but not limited to, ethylene propylene rubber (“EPR”), ethylene propylene diene rubber (“EPDM”), styrenic block copolymer rubbers (such as SI, SIS, SB, SBS, SIBS, and the like, where “S” is styrene, “I” is isobutylene, and “B” is butadiene), butyl rubber, halobutyl rubber, copolymers of isobutylene and para-alkylstyrene, halogenated copolymers of isobutylene and para-alkylstyrene, natural rubber, polyisoprene, copolymers of butadiene with acrylonitrile, polychloroprene, alkyl acrylate rubber, chlorinated isoprene rubber, acrylonitrile chlorinated isoprene rubber, and polybutadiene rubber (cis and trans). Additional suitable blend polymers include those described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,981,658, for example at column 14, lines 30 to 56, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference. The blends described herein may be produced by post-reactor blending, by connecting reactors in series to make reactor blends, or by using more than one catalyst in the same reactor to produce multiple species of polymer. The polymers may be mixed prior to being put into an extruder, or they may be mixed in an extruder.

Particularly suitable relatively soft HNP compositions include, but are not limited to, the highly-resilient thermoplastic compositions disclosed in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2005/0148725; the highly-neutralized ethylene copolymers disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,653,382 and 6,777,472, and U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2003/0130434; and the highly-resilient thermoplastic elastomer compositions disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,815,480; the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Relatively Hard HNP Composition

Relatively hard HNP compositions of the present invention have a Shore D hardness of 35 or greater, and preferably have a Shore D hardness of 45 or greater or a Shore D hardness with a range having a lower limit of 45 or 50 or 55 or 57 or 58 or 60 or 65 or 70 or 75 and an upper limit of 80 or 85 or 90 or 95.

Relatively hard HNP compositions of the present invention comprise at least one highly neutralized acid polymer. In a preferred embodiment, the highly neutralized acid polymer of the relatively hard HNP composition is a high modulus HNP having a modulus within a range having a lower limit of 25,000 or 27,000 or 30,000 or 40,000 or 45,000 or 50,000 or 55,000 or 60,000 psi and an upper limit of 72,000 or 75,000 or 100,000 or 150,000 psi.

HNPs of the relatively hard HNP compositions of the present invention are salts of acid copolymers. It is understood that the HNP may be a blend of two or more HNPs. Preferred acid copolymers are copolymers of an α-olefin and a C3-C8 α,β-ethylenically unsaturated carboxylic acid. The acid is typically present in the acid copolymer in an amount within a range having a lower limit of 1 or 10 or 12 or 15 or 20 wt % and an upper limit of 25 or 30 or 35 or 40 wt %, based on the total weight of the acid copolymer. The α-olefin is preferably selected from ethylene and propylene. The acid is preferably selected from (meth) acrylic acid, ethacrylic acid, maleic acid, crotonic acid, fumaric acid, and itaconic acid. (Meth) acrylic acid is particularly preferred. In a preferred embodiment, the HNP of the relatively hard HNP composition has a higher level of acid than the HNP of the relatively soft HNP composition.

Suitable acid copolymers include partially neutralized acid polymers. Examples of suitable partially neutralized acid polymers include, but are not limited to, Surlyn® ionomers, commercially available from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company; AClyn® ionomers, commercially available from Honeywell International Inc.; and Iotek® ionomers, commercially available from ExxonMobil Chemical Company. Also suitable are DuPont® HPF 1000 and DuPont® HPF 2000, ionomeric materials commercially available from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. Additional suitable acid polymers are more fully described, for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,562,906, 6,762,246, and 6,953,820 and U.S. Patent Application Publication Nos. 2005/0049367, 2005/0020741, and 2004/0220343, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

In a preferred embodiment, the HNP of the relatively soft HNP composition is formed by reacting an acid copolymer with a sufficient amount of cation source such that at least 80%, preferably at least 90%, more preferably at least 95%, and even more preferably 100%, of all acid groups present are neutralized. Suitable cation sources include metal ions and compounds of alkali metals, alkaline earth metals, and transition metals; metal ions and compounds of rare earth elements; silicone, silane, and silicate derivatives and complex ligands; and combinations thereof. Preferred cation sources are metal ions and compounds of magnesium, sodium, potassium, cesium, calcium, barium, manganese, copper, zinc, tin, lithium, and rare earth metals. Metal ions and compounds of calcium and magnesium are particularly preferred. The acid copolymer may be at least partially neutralized prior to contacting the acid copolymer with the cation source to form the HNP. As previously stated, methods of preparing ionomers, and the acid copolymers on which ionomers are based, are disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 3,264,272, and 4,351,931, and U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2002/0013413.

Relatively hard HNP compositions of the present invention optionally contain one or more melt flow modifiers. The amount of melt flow modifier in the composition is readily determined such that the melt flow index of the composition is at least 0.1 g/10 min, preferably from 0.5 g/10 min to 10.0 g/10 min, and more preferably from 1.0 g/10 min to 6.0 g/10 min, as measured using ASTM D-1238, condition E, at 190° C., using a 2160 gram weight.

Suitable melt flow modifiers include, but are not limited to, high molecular weight organic acids and salts thereof, polyamides, polyesters, polyacrylates, polyurethanes, polyethers, polyureas, polyhydric alcohols, and combinations thereof. Suitable organic acids are aliphatic organic acids, aromatic organic acids, saturated mono-functional organic acids, unsaturated monofunctional organic acids, multi-unsaturated mono-functional organic acids, and dimerized derivatives thereof. Particular examples of suitable organic acids include, but are not limited to, caproic acid, caprylic acid, capric acid, lauric acid, stearic acid, behenic acid, erucic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, myristic acid, benzoic acid, palmitic acid, phenylacetic acid, naphthalenoic acid, dimerized derivatives thereof. Suitable organic acids are more fully described, for example, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,756,436, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Additional melt flow modifiers suitable for use in compositions of the present invention, include the non-fatty acid melt flow modifiers described in copending U.S. patent application Ser. Nos. 11/216,725 and 11/216,726, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Relatively hard HNP compositions of the present invention optionally include additive(s) and/or filler(s) in an amount within a range having a lower limit of 0 or 5 or 10 wt %, and an upper limit of 25 or 30 or 50 wt %, based on the total weight of the relatively hard HNP composition. Suitable additives and fillers include those previously described as suitable for the relatively soft HNP compositions of the present invention.

Relatively hard HNP compositions of the present invention optionally contain a low modulus HNP.

In a particular embodiment, the relatively hard HNP composition has an MVTR of 8 g-mil/100 in2/day or less (i.e., 3.2 g-mm/m2·day or less), or 5 g-mil/100 in2/day or less (i.e., 2.0 g-mm/m2·day or less), or 3 g-mil/100 in2/day or less (i.e., 1.2 g-mm/m2·day or less), or 2 g-mil/100 in2/day or less (i.e., 0.8 g-mm/m2·day or less), or 1 g-mil/100 in2/day or less (i.e., 0.4 g-mm/m2·day or less), or less than 1 g-mil/100 in2/day (i.e., less than 0.4 g-mm/m2·day). In a preferred aspect of this embodiment, the relatively hard HNP composition comprises a high modulus HNP prepared using a cation source which is less hydrophilic than conventional magnesium-based cation sources. Suitable moisture resistant HNP compositions are disclosed, for example, in copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/270,066 and U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2005/0267240, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

In another particular embodiment, a sphere formed from the relatively hard HNP composition has a compression of 70 or greater, or 80 or greater, or a compression within a range having a lower limit of 70 or 80 or 90 or 100 and an upper limit of 110 or 130 or 140.

Relatively hard HNP compositions of the present invention are not limited by any particular method or any particular equipment for making the compositions. In a preferred embodiment, the composition is prepared by the following process. The acid polymer(s), preferably an ethylene/(meth) acrylic acid copolymer, optional melt flow modifier(s), and optional additive(s)/filler(s) are simultaneously or individually fed into a melt extruder, such as a single or twin screw extruder. A suitable amount of cation source is then added such that at least 80%, preferably at least 90%, more preferably at least 95%, and even more preferably 100%, of all acid groups present are neutralized. The acid polymer may be at least partially neutralized prior to the above process. The components are intensively mixed prior to being extruded as a strand from the die-head.

In another preferred embodiment, the relatively hard HNP composition is formed by combining a low modulus HNP with a sufficient amount of one or more additional material(s), including, but not limited to, additives, fillers, and polymeric materials, to increase the modulus such that the resulting composition has a modulus as described above for the high modulus HNP.

Relatively hard HNP compositions of the present invention may be blended with one or more additional polymers, such as thermoplastic polymers and elastomers. Examples of thermoplastic polymers and elastomers suitable for blending include those previously described as suitable for blending with the relatively soft HNP compositions of the present invention.

HNP compositions of the present invention, in the neat (i.e., unfilled) form, preferably have a specific gravity of from 0.95 g/cc to 0.99 g/cc. Any suitable filler, flake, fiber, particle, or the like, of an organic or inorganic material may be added to the HNP composition to increase or decrease the specific gravity, particularly to adjust the weight distribution within the golf ball, as further disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,494,795, 6,547,677, 6,743,123, 7,074,137, and 6,688,991, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Golf Ball Applications

Golf balls of the present invention comprise at least one layer formed from a relatively soft HNP composition and at least one layer formed from a relatively hard HNP composition. In a preferred embodiment, the present invention provides a golf ball having a two-layer core, wherein the two-layer core includes a layer formed from a relatively soft HNP composition and a layer formed from a relatively hard HNP composition.

In the embodiments disclosed herein, the relatively soft HNP composition and/or the relatively hard HNP composition can be either foamed or filled with density adjusting materials to provide desirable golf ball performance characteristics.

Golf balls having a layer formed from a relatively soft HNP composition and a layer formed from a relatively hard HNP composition are further disclosed, for example, in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2007/0207879, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Two-layer cores of the present invention consist of an inner core layer and an outer core layer, and preferably have an overall core diameter within a range having a lower limit of 1.400 or 1.450 or 1.500 or 1.510 or 1.550 inches and an upper limit of 1.600 or 1.620 or 1.660 inches. The inner core layer preferably has a diameter within a range having a lower limit of 0.100 or 0.125 or 0.250 inches and an upper limit of 0.375 or 0.500 or 0.750 or 1.000 inches.

The inner core layer preferably has an outer surface hardness of 70 Shore C or greater, or 81 Shore C or greater, or 85 Shore C or greater, or an outer surface hardness within a range having a lower limit of 70 or 80 Shore C and an upper limit of 90 or 95 Shore C. The outer core layer preferably has an outer surface hardness of 90 Shore C or less, or 80 Shore C or less, or less than 80 Shore C, or less than 70 Shore C, or less than 60 Shore C. In a particular embodiment, the Shore C hardness of the outer core layer's outer surface is less than or equal to that of the inner core layer's outer surface. In another particular embodiment, the Shore C hardness of the outer core layer's outer surface is less than that of the inner core layer's outer surface.

The specific gravity of the outer core layer is preferably greater than or equal to or substantially the same as the specific gravity of the inner core layer. For purposes of the present invention, specific gravities are substantially the same if they are the same or within 0.1 g/cc of each other.

While the present invention is not limited by which core layer is formed from the relatively soft HNP composition and which core layer is formed from the relatively hard HNP composition, the inner core layer is preferably formed from the relatively hard HNP composition and the outer core layer is preferably formed from the relatively soft HNP composition.

Golf ball cores of the present invention are not limited by any particular hardness for the center point of the inner core layer. In a particular embodiment, the center hardness is within a range having a lower limit of 30 or 40 or 45 Shore C and an upper limit of 70 or 75 or 80 Shore C. In another embodiment, the center hardness is within a range having a lower limit of 60 or 65 Shore C and an upper limit of 80 or 85 or 90 or 95 Shore C.

The two-layer core is enclosed by a cover, which may be a single-, dual-, or multi-layer cover, preferably having an overall thickness within a range having a lower limit of 0.010 or 0.015 or 0.020 or 0.025 or 0.030 or 0.040 or 0.045 or 0.050 or 0.055 or 0.060 inches and an upper limit of 0.070 or 0.075 or 0.080 or 0.090 or 0.100 or 0.110 or 0.120 or 0.140 or 0.150 or 0.200 or 0.300 or 0.500 inches. Dual- and multi-layer covers have an inner cover layer and an outer cover layer, and multi-layer covers additionally have at least one intermediate cover layer disposed between the inner cover layer and the outer cover layer. Inner cover layers of the present invention preferably have a thickness within a range having a lower limit of 0.010 or 0.015 or 0.020 or 0.025 or 0.030 inches and an upper limit of 0.035 or 0.045 or 0.050 or 0.080 or 0.120 or 0.150 or 0.200 inches. Outer cover layers of the present invention preferably have a thickness within a range having a lower limit of 0.010 or 0.015 or 0.020 or 0.025 inches and an upper limit of 0.035 or 0.040 or 0.050 or 0.055 or 0.150 or 0.200 inches. Intermediate cover layer(s) of the present invention preferably have a thickness within a range having a lower limit of 0.010 or 0.020 or 0.025 inches and an upper limit of 0.050 or 0.150 or 0.200 inches.

Suitable cover materials for golf balls of the present invention include, but are not limited to, ionomer resins and blends thereof (e.g., Surlyn® ionomer resins and DuPont® HPF 1000 and HPF 2000, commercially available from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company; Iotek® ionomers, commercially available from ExxonMobil Chemical Company; Amplify® IO ionomers of ethylene acrylic acid copolymers, commercially available from The Dow Chemical Company; and Clarix® ionomer resins, commercially available from A. Schulman Inc.); polyurethanes, polyureas, and copolymers and blends of polyurethane and polyurea; polyethylene, including, for example, low density polyethylene, linear low density polyethylene, and high density polyethylene; polypropylene; rubber-toughened olefin polymers; acid copolymers, e.g., (meth)acrylic acid, which do not become part of an ionomeric copolymer; plastomers; flexomers; styrene/butadiene/styrene block copolymers; styrene/ethylene-butylene/styrene block copolymers; dynamically vulcanized elastomers; ethylene vinyl acetates; ethylene methyl acrylates; polyvinyl chloride resins; polyamides, amide-ester elastomers, and graft copolymers of ionomer and polyamide, including, for example, Pebax® thermoplastic polyether block amides, commercially available from Arkema Inc; crosslinked trans-polyisoprene and blends thereof; polyester-based thermoplastic elastomers, such as Hytrel®, commercially available from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company; polyurethane-based thermoplastic elastomers, such as Elastollan®, commercially available from BASF; synthetic and natural vulcanized rubbers; and combinations thereof. Suitable cover materials and constructions also include, but are not limited to, those disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,117,025, 6,767,940, and 6,960,630, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Composition comprising an ionomer or a blend of two or more ionomers are particularly suitable for forming inner cover layers. Preferred ionomeric compositions include:

    • (a) a composition comprising a “high acid ionomer” (i.e., having an acid content of greater than 16 wt %), such as Surlyn 8150®;
    • (b) a composition comprising a high acid ionomer and a maleic anhydride-grafted non-ionomeric polymer (e.g., Fusabond® maleic anhydride-grafted metallocene-catalyzed ethylene-butene copolymers). A particularly preferred blend of high acid ionomer and maleic anhydride-grafted polymer is a blend of 79-85 wt % Surlyn 8150® and 15-21 wt % Fusabond®. Blends of high acid ionomers with maleic anhydride-grafted polymers are further disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,992,135 and 6,677,401, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference;
    • (c) a composition comprising a 50/45/5 blend of Surlyn® 8940/Surlyn® 9650/Nucrel® 960, preferably having a material hardness of from 80 to 85 Shore C;
    • (d) a composition comprising a 50/25/25 blend of Surlyn® 8940/Surlyn® 9650/Surlyn® 9910, preferably having a material hardness of about 90 Shore C;
    • (e) a composition comprising a 50/50 blend of Surlyn® 8940/Surlyn® 9650, preferably having a material hardness of about 86 Shore C;
    • (f) a composition comprising a blend of Surlyn® 7940/Surlyn® 8940, optionally including a melt flow modifier;
    • (g) a composition comprising a blend of a first high acid ionomer and a second high acid ionomer, wherein the first high acid ionomer is neutralized with a different cation than the second high acid ionomer (e.g., 50/50 blend of Surlyn® 8150 and Surlyn® 9150), optionally including one or more melt flow modifiers such as an ionomer, ethylene-acid copolymer or ester terpolymer; and
    • (h) a composition comprising a blend of a first high acid ionomer and a second high acid ionomer, wherein the first high acid ionomer is neutralized with a different cation than the second high acid ionomer, and from 0 to 10 wt % of an ethylene/acid/ester ionomer wherein the ethylene/acid/ester ionomer is neutralized with the same cation as either the first high acid ionomer or the second high acid ionomer or a different cation than the first and second high acid ionomers (e.g., a blend of 40-50 wt % Surlyn® 8140, 40-50 wt % Surlyn® 9120, and 0-10 wt % Surlyn® 6320).

Surlyn 8150®, Surlyn® 8940, and Surlyn® 8140 are different grades of E/MAA copolymer in which the acid groups have been partially neutralized with sodium ions. Surlyn® 9650, Surlyn® 9910, Surlyn® 9150, and Surlyn® 9120 are different grades of E/MAA copolymer in which the acid groups have been partially neutralized with zinc ions. Surlyn® 7940 is an E/MAA copolymer in which the acid groups have been partially neutralized with lithium ions. Surlyn® 6320 is a very low modulus magnesium ionomer with a medium acid content. Nucrel® 960 is an E/MAA copolymer resin nominally made with 15 wt % methacrylic acid. Surlyn® ionomers, Fusabond® copolymers, and Nucrel® copolymers are commercially available from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.

Non-limiting examples of particularly preferred ionomeric cover layer formulations are shown in Table 1 below.

TABLE 1
Cover Layer Surlyn ® Fusabond ®, Shore C Hardness
Material 8150, wt % wt % at 10 Days
1 89 11 91.2
2 84 16 89.8
3 84 16 90.4
4 84 16 89.6
5 81 19 88.9
6 80 20 89.1
7 78 22 88.1
8 76 24 87.6
9 76 24 87.2
10 73 27 86.6
11 71 29 86.7
12 67 33 84.0

Ionomeric cover compositions can be blended with non-ionic thermoplastic resins, particularly to manipulate product properties. Examples of suitable non-ionic thermoplastic resins include, but are not limited to, polyurethane, poly-ether-ester, poly-amide-ether, polyether-urea, thermoplastic polyether block amides (e.g., Pebax® block copolymers, commercially available from Arkema Inc.), styrene-butadiene-styrene block copolymers, styrene(ethylene-butylene)-styrene block copolymers, polyamides, polyesters, polyolefins (e.g., polyethylene, polypropylene, ethylene-propylene copolymers, polyethylene-(meth)acrylate, polyethylene-(meth)acrylic acid, functionalized polymers with maleic anhydride grafting, Fusabond® functionalized olefins commercially available from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, functionalized polymers with epoxidation, elastomers (e.g., ethylene propylene diene monomer rubber, metallocene-catalyzed polyolefin) and ground powders of thermoset elastomers.

Suitable ionomeric cover materials are further disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,653,382, 6,756,436, 6,894,098, 6,919,393, and 6,953,820, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

Polyurethanes, polyureas, and blends and hybrids of polyurethane/polyurea are particularly suitable for forming outer cover layers. When used as cover layer materials, polyurethanes and polyureas can be thermoset or thermoplastic. Thermoset materials can be formed into golf ball layers by conventional casting or reaction injection molding techniques. Thermoplastic materials can be formed into golf ball layers by conventional compression or injection molding techniques. In embodiments of the present invention wherein a golf ball having a single layer cover is provided, the cover layer material is preferably selected from polyurethane and polyurea. In embodiments of the present invention wherein a golf ball having a dual cover is provided, the inner cover layer is preferably a high modulus thermoplastic, and the outer cover layer is preferably selected from polyurethane and polyurea.

Suitable polyurethane cover materials are further disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,334,673, 6,506,851, 6,756,436, and 7,105,623, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference. Suitable polyurea cover materials are further disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,484,870 and 6,835,794, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference. Suitable polyurethane-urea cover materials include polyurethane/polyurea blends and copolymers comprising urethane and urea segments, as disclosed in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2007/0117923, the entire disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Golf ball cover compositions may include a flow modifier, such as, but not limited to, Nucrel® acid copolymer resins, and particularly Nucrel® 960. Nucrel® acid copolymer resins are commercially available from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company.

Cover compositions may also include one or more filler(s), such as the fillers given above for rubber compositions of the present invention (e.g., titanium dioxide, barium sulfate, etc.), and/or additive(s), such as coloring agents, fluorescent agents, whitening agents, antioxidants, dispersants, UV absorbers, light stabilizers, plasticizers, surfactants, compatibility agents, foaming agents, reinforcing agents, release agents, and the like.

Additional suitable cover materials are disclosed, for example, in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2005/0164810, U.S. Pat. No. 5,919,100, and PCT Publications WO00/23519 and WO00/29129, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

In a particular embodiment, the cover is a single layer, preferably formed from an ionomeric composition. The single layer cover preferably has an outer surface hardness of 65 Shore D or less, or 60 Shore D or less, or 45 Shore D or less, or 40 Shore D or less, or from 25 Shore D to 40 Shore D, or from 30 Shore D to 40 Shore D, and a thickness within a range having a lower limit of 0.010 or 0.015 or 0.020 or 0.025 or 0.030 or 0.050 inches and an upper limit of 0.065 or 0.080 or 0.090 or 0.100 or 0.110 or 0.120 or 0.140 inches.

In another particular embodiment, the cover is a two-layer cover consisting of an inner cover layer and an outer cover layer. The inner cover layer is preferably formed from an ionomeric composition, and preferably has an outer surface hardness of 60 Shore D or greater, or 65 Shore D or greater, or an outer surface hardness within a range having a lower limit of 30 or 40 or 55 or 60 or 65 Shore D and an upper limit of 66 or 68 or 70 or 75 Shore D. The inner cover layer composition preferably has a material hardness of 95 Shore C or less, or less than 95 Shore C, or 92 Shore C or less, or 90 Shore C or less, or 85 Shore C or less, or has a material hardness within a range having a lower limit of 70 or 75 or 80 or 82 or 84 Shore C and an upper limit of 85 or 86 or 90 or 92 or 95 Shore C. The inner cover layer preferably has a thickness within a range having a lower limit of 0.010 or 0.015 or 0.020 or 0.025 or 0.030 inches and an upper limit of 0.035 or 0.040 or 0.045 or 0.050 or 0.055 or 0.075 or 0.080 or 0.100 or 0.110 or 0.120 inches. The outer cover layer is preferably formed from a castable or reaction injection moldable polyurethane, polyurea, or copolymer or blend of polyurethane and polyurea. Such cover material is preferably thermosetting, but may be thermoplastic. The outer cover layer preferably has an outer surface hardness of 60 Shore D or less, or an outer surface hardness of less than 60 Shore D, or an outer surface hardness within a range having a lower limit of 20 or 30 or 35 or 40 Shore D and an upper limit of 52 or 58 or 60 or 65 or 70 or 72 or 75 Shore D. The outer cover layer composition preferably has a material hardness of 85 Shore C or less, or 50 Shore D or less, or 45 Shore D or less, or 40 Shore D or less, or from 25 Shore D to 40 Shore D, or from 30 Shore D to 40 Shore D. The outer cover layer preferably has a thickness within a range having a lower limit of 0.010 or 0.015 or 0.020 or 0.025 or 0.030 inches and an upper limit of 0.035 or 0.040 or 0.045 or 0.050 or 0.055 or 0.075 or 0.080 or 0.115 inches. The two-layer cover preferably has an overall thickness within a range having a lower limit of 0.020 or 0.025 or 0.030 or 0.055 or 0.060 inches and an upper limit of 0.065 or 0.075 or 0.080 or 0.090 or 0.100 or 0.110 or 0.120 or 0.140 inches.

Golf balls of the present invention optionally include one or more intermediate layer(s) disposed between the core and the cover. When present, the overall thickness of the intermediate layer(s) is generally within a range having a lower limit of 0.010 or 0.050 or 0.100 inches and an upper limit of 0.300 or 0.350 or 0.400 inches. Suitable intermediate layer materials include, but are not limited to, natural rubbers, balata, gutta-percha, cis-polybutadienes, trans-polybutadienes, synthetic polyisoprene rubbers, polyoctenamers, styrene-propylene-diene rubbers, metallocene rubbers, styrene-butadiene rubbers, ethylene-propylene rubbers, chloroprene rubbers, acrylonitrile rubbers, acrylonitrile-butadiene rubbers, styrene-ethylene block copolymers, maleic anhydride- or succinate-modified metallocene catalyzed ethylene copolymers, polypropylene resins, ionomer resins, polyamides, polyesters, polyurethanes, polyureas, chlorinated polyethylenes, polysulfide rubbers, fluorocarbons, and combinations thereof.

A moisture vapor barrier layer is optionally employed between the core and the cover. Moisture vapor barrier layers are further disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,632,147, 6,932,720, 7,004,854, and 7,182,702, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

The present invention is not limited by any particular process for forming the golf ball layer(s). It should be understood that the layer(s) can be formed by any suitable technique, including injection molding, compression molding, casting, and reaction injection molding.

When injection molding is used, the composition is typically in a pelletized or granulated form that can be easily fed into the throat of an injection molding machine wherein it is melted and conveyed via a screw in a heated barrel at temperatures of from 150° F. to 600° F., preferably from 200° F. to 500° F. The molten composition is ultimately injected into a closed mold cavity, which may be cooled, at ambient or at an elevated temperature, but typically the mold is cooled to a temperature of from 50° F. to 70° F. After residing in the closed mold for a time of from 1 second to 300 seconds, preferably from 20 seconds to 120 seconds, the core and/or core plus one or more additional core or cover layers is removed from the mold and either allowed to cool at ambient or reduced temperatures or is placed in a cooling fluid such as water, ice water, dry ice in a solvent, or the like.

When compression molding is used to form a center, the composition is first formed into a preform or slug of material, typically in a cylindrical or roughly spherical shape at a weight slightly greater than the desired weight of the molded core. Prior to this step, the composition may be first extruded or otherwise melted and forced through a die after which it is cut into a cylindrical preform. It is that preform that is then placed into a compression mold cavity and compressed at a mold temperature of from 150° F. to 400° F., preferably from 250° F. to 350° F., and more preferably from 260° F. to 295° F. When compression molding a core or cover layer of an HNP composition, a half-shell is first formed via injection molding and then a core comprising one or more layers is enclosed within two half shells and then compression molded in a similar manner to the process previously described.

Reaction injection molding processes are further disclosed, for example, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,083,119, 7,338,391, 7,282,169, 7,281,997 and U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2006/0247073, the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference.

Golf ball cores of the present invention typically have an overall core compression of less than 100, or a compression of 87 or less, or an overall core compression within a range having a lower limit of 20 or 50 or 60 or 65 or 70 or 75 and an upper limit of 80 or 85 or 90 or 95 or 100 or 110 or 120, or an overall core compression of about 80. Compression is an important factor in golf ball design. For example, the compression of the core can affect the ball's spin rate off the driver and the feel. As disclosed in Jeff Dalton's Compression by Any Other Name, Science and Golf IV, Proceedings of the World Scientific Congress of Golf (Eric Thain ed., Routledge, 2002) (“J. Dalton”), several different methods can be used to measure compression, including Atti compression, Riehle compression, load/deflection measurements at a variety of fixed loads and offsets, and effective modulus. For purposes of the present invention, “compression” refers to Atti compression and is measured according to a known procedure, using an Atti compression test device, wherein a piston is used to compress a ball against a spring. The travel of the piston is fixed and the deflection of the spring is measured. The measurement of the deflection of the spring does not begin with its contact with the ball; rather, there is an offset of approximately the first 1.25 mm (0.05 inches) of the spring's deflection. Very low stiffness cores will not cause the spring to deflect by more than 1.25 mm and therefore have a zero compression measurement. The Atti compression tester is designed to measure objects having a diameter of 42.7 mm (1.68 inches); thus, smaller objects, such as golf ball cores, must be shimmed to a total height of 42.7 mm to obtain an accurate reading. Conversion from Atti compression to Riehle (cores), Riehle (balls), 100 kg deflection, 130-10 kg deflection or effective modulus can be carried out according to the formulas given in J. Dalton.

Golf ball cores of the present invention typically have a coefficient of restitution (“COR”) at 125 ft/s of 0.750 or greater, preferably 0.780 or greater, and more preferably 0.790 or greater. COR, as used herein, is determined according to a known procedure wherein a golf ball or golf ball subassembly (e.g., a golf ball core) is fired from an air cannon at two given velocities and calculated at a velocity of 125 ft/s. Ballistic light screens are located between the air cannon and the steel plate at a fixed distance to measure ball velocity. As the ball travels toward the steel plate, it activates each light screen, and the time at each light screen is measured. This provides an incoming transit time period inversely proportional to the ball's incoming velocity. The ball impacts the steel plate and rebounds though the light screens, which again measure the time period required to transit between the light screens. This provides an outgoing transit time period inversely proportional to the ball's outgoing velocity. COR is then calculated as the ratio of the outgoing transit time period to the incoming transit time period, COR=Vout/Vin=Tin/Tout.

Golf balls of the present invention will typically have dimple coverage of 60% or greater, preferably 65% or greater, and more preferably 75% or greater.

The United States Golf Association specifications limit the minimum size of a competition golf ball to 1.680 inches. There is no specification as to the maximum diameter, and golf balls of any size can be used for recreational play. Golf balls of the present invention can have an overall diameter of any size. The preferred diameter of the present golf balls is from 1.680 inches to 1.800 inches. More preferably, the present golf balls have an overall diameter of from 1.680 inches to 1.760 inches, and even more preferably from 1.680 inches to 1.740 inches.

Golf balls of the present invention preferably have a moment of inertia (“MOI”) of 70-95 g·cm2, preferably 75-93 g·cm2, and more preferably 76-90 g·cm2. For low MOI embodiments, the golf ball preferably has an MOT of 85 g·cm2 or less, or 83 g·cm2 or less. For high MOT embodiment, the golf ball preferably has an MOT of 86 g·cm2 or greater, or 87 g·cm2 or greater. MOI is measured on a model MOI-005-104 Moment of Inertia Instrument manufactured by Inertia Dynamics of Collinsville, Conn. The instrument is connected to a PC for communication via a COMM port and is driven by MOI Instrument Software version #1.2.

Thermoplastic layers herein may be treated in such a manner as to create a positive or negative hardness gradient. In golf ball layers of the present invention wherein a thermosetting rubber is used, gradient-producing processes and/or gradient-producing rubber formulation may be employed. Gradient-producing processes and formulations are disclosed more fully, for example, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/048,665, filed on Mar. 14, 2008; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/829,461, filed on Jul. 27, 2007; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/772,903, filed Jul. 3, 2007; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/832,163, filed Aug. 1, 2007; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/832,197, filed on Aug. 1, 2007; the entire disclosure of each of these references is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

In addition to the materials disclosed above, any of the core or cover layers may comprise one or more of the following materials: thermoplastic elastomer, thermoset elastomer, synthetic rubber, thermoplastic vulcanizate, copolymeric ionomer, terpolymeric ionomer, polycarbonate, polyolefin, polyamide, copolymeric polyamide, polyesters, polyester-amides, polyether-amides, polyvinyl alcohols, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene copolymers, polyarylate, polyacrylate, polyphenylene ether, impact-modified polyphenylene ether, high impact polystyrene, diallyl phthalate polymer, metallocene-catalyzed polymers, styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN), olefin-modified SAN, acrylonitrile-styrene-acrylonitrile, styrene-maleic anhydride (S/MA) polymer, styrenic copolymer, functionalized styrenic copolymer, functionalized styrenic terpolymer, styrenic terpolymer, cellulose polymer, liquid crystal polymer (LCP), ethylene-propylene-diene rubber (EPDM), ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer (EVA), ethylene propylene rubber (EPR), ethylene vinyl acetate, polyurea, and polysiloxane. Suitable polyamides for use as an additional material in compositions disclosed herein also include resins obtained by: (1) polycondensation of (a) a dicarboxylic acid, such as oxalic acid, adipic acid, sebacic acid, terephthalic acid, isophthalic acid or 1,4-cyclohexanedicarboxylic acid, with (b) a diamine, such as ethylenediamine, tetramethylenediamine, pentamethylenediamine, hexamethylenediamine, or decamethylenediamine, 1,4-cyclohexyldiamine or m-xylylenediamine; (2) a ring-opening polymerization of cyclic lactam, such as ε-caprolactam or ω-laurolactam; (3) polycondensation of an aminocarboxylic acid, such as 6-aminocaproic acid, 9-aminononanoic acid, 11-aminoundecanoic acid or 12-aminododecanoic acid; or (4) copolymerization of a cyclic lactam with a dicarboxylic acid and a diamine. Specific examples of suitable polyamides include Nylon 6, Nylon 66, Nylon 610, Nylon 11, Nylon 12, copolymerized Nylon, Nylon MXD6, and Nylon 46.

Other materials suitable for use as an additional material in golf ball compositions disclosed herein include Skypel polyester elastomers, commercially available from SK Chemicals of South Korea; Septon® diblock and triblock copolymers, commercially available from Kuraray Corporation of Kurashiki, Japan; and Kraton® diblock and triblock copolymers, commercially available from Kraton Polymers LLC of Houston, Tex.

Ionomers are also well suited for blending with compositions disclosed herein. Suitable ionomeric polymers include α-olefin/unsaturated carboxylic acid copolymer- or terpolymer-type ionomeric resins. Copolymeric ionomers are obtained by neutralizing at least a portion of the carboxylic groups in a copolymer of an α-olefin and an α,β-unsaturated carboxylic acid having from 3 to 8 carbon atoms, with a metal ion. Terpolymeric ionomers are obtained by neutralizing at least a portion of the carboxylic groups in a terpolymer of an α-olefin, an α,β-unsaturated carboxylic acid having from 3 to 8 carbon atoms, and an α,β-unsaturated carboxylate having from 2 to 22 carbon atoms, with a metal ion. Examples of suitable α-olefins for copolymeric and terpolymeric ionomers include ethylene, propylene, 1-butene, and 1-hexene. Examples of suitable unsaturated carboxylic acids for copolymeric and terpolymeric ionomers include acrylic, methacrylic, ethacrylic, α-chloroacrylic, crotonic, maleic, fumaric, and itaconic acid. Copolymeric and terpolymeric ionomers include ionomers having varied acid contents and degrees of acid neutralization, neutralized by monovalent or bivalent cations as disclosed herein. Examples of commercially available ionomers suitable for blending with compositions disclosed herein include Surlyn® ionomer resins, commercially available from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, and Iotek® ionomers, commercially available from ExxonMobil Chemical Company.

Silicone materials are also well suited for blending with compositions disclosed herein. Suitable silicone materials include monomers, oligomers, prepolymers, and polymers, with or without adding reinforcing filler. One type of silicone material that is suitable can incorporate at least 1 alkenyl group having at least 2 carbon atoms in their molecules. Examples of these alkenyl groups include, but are not limited to, vinyl, allyl, butenyl, pentenyl, hexenyl, and decenyl. The alkenyl functionality can be located at any location of the silicone structure, including one or both terminals of the structure. The remaining (i.e., non-alkenyl) silicon-bonded organic groups in this component are independently selected from hydrocarbon or halogenated hydrocarbon groups that contain no aliphatic unsaturation. Non-limiting examples of these include: alkyl groups, such as methyl, ethyl, propyl, butyl, pentyl, and hexyl; cycloalkyl groups, such as cyclohexyl and cycloheptyl; aryl groups, such as phenyl, tolyl, and xylyl; aralkyl groups, such as benzyl and phenethyl; and halogenated alkyl groups, such as 3,3,3-trifluoropropyl and chloromethyl. Another type of suitable silicone material is one having hydrocarbon groups that lack aliphatic unsaturation. Specific examples include: trimethylsiloxy-endblocked dimethylsiloxane-methylhexenylsiloxane copolymers; dimethylhexenylsiloxy-endblocked dimethylsiloxane-methylhexenylsiloxane copolymers; trimethylsiloxy-endblocked dimethylsiloxane-methylvinylsiloxane copolymers; trimethylsiloxyl-endblocked methylphenylsiloxane-dimethylsiloxane-methylvinysiloxane copolymers; dimethylvinylsiloxy-endblocked dimethylpolysiloxanes; dimethylvinylsiloxy-endblocked dimethylsiloxane-methylvinylsiloxane copolymers; dimethylvinylsiloxy-endblocked methylphenylpolysiloxanes; dimethylvinylsiloxy-endblocked methylphenylsiloxane-dimethylsiloxane-methylvinylsiloxane copolymers; and the copolymers listed above wherein at least one group is dimethylhydroxysiloxy. Examples of commercially available silicones suitable for blending with compositions disclosed herein include Silastic® silicone rubber, commercially available from Dow Corning Corporation of Midland, Mich.; Blensil® silicone rubber, commercially available from General Electric Company of Waterford, N.Y.; and Elastosil® silicones, commercially available from Wacker Chemie AG of Germany.

Other types of copolymers can also be added to the golf ball compositions disclosed herein. For example, suitable copolymers comprising epoxy monomers include styrene-butadiene-styrene block copolymers in which the polybutadiene block contains an epoxy group, and styrene-isoprene-styrene block copolymers in which the polyisoprene block contains epoxy. Examples of commercially available epoxy functionalized copolymers include ESBS A1005, ESBS A1010, ESBS A1020, ESBS AT018, and ESBS AT019 epoxidized styrene-butadiene-styrene block copolymers, commercially available from Daicel Chemical Industries, Ltd. of Japan.

Ionomeric compositions used to form golf ball layers of the present invention can be blended with non-ionic thermoplastic resins, particularly to manipulate product properties. Examples of suitable non-ionic thermoplastic resins include, but are not limited to, polyurethane, poly-ether-ester, poly-amide-ether, polyether-urea, Pebax® thermoplastic polyether block amides commercially available from Arkema Inc., styrene-butadiene-styrene block copolymers, styrene(ethylene-butylene)-styrene block copolymers, polyamides, polyesters, polyolefins (e.g., polyethylene, polypropylene, ethylene-propylene copolymers, ethylene-(meth)acrylate, ethylene-(meth)acrylic acid, functionalized polymers with maleic anhydride grafting, epoxidation, etc., elastomers (e.g., EPDM, metallocene-catalyzed polyethylene) and ground powders of the thermoset elastomers.

For purposes of the present disclosure, material hardness is measured according to ASTM D2240 and generally involves measuring the hardness of a flat “slab” or “button” formed of the material. It should be understood that there is a fundamental difference between “material hardness” and “hardness as measured directly on a golf ball.” Hardness as measured directly on a golf ball (or other spherical surface) typically results in a different hardness value than material hardness. This difference in hardness values is due to several factors including, but not limited to, ball construction (i.e., core type, number of core and/or cover layers, etc.), ball (or sphere) diameter, and the material composition of adjacent layers. It should also be understood that the two measurement techniques are not linearly related and, therefore, one hardness value cannot easily be correlated to the other.

Golf ball cores of the present invention may have a zero or negative or positive hardness gradient. For purposes of the present disclosure, a hardness gradient of a golf ball layer is defined by hardness measurements made at the outer surface of the layer and the inner surface of the layer. The inner core layer's center hardness and the outer core layer's outer surface hardness are readily determined according to the procedures given herein for measuring the center hardness of a core and the outer surface hardness of a golf ball layer, respectively. The outer surface of the inner core layer is readily determined according to the procedures given herein for measuring the outer surface hardness of a golf ball layer, if the measurement is made prior to surrounding the layer with the outer core layer. However, once the inner core layer is surrounded by the outer core layer, the hardness of the inner core layer's outer surface can be difficult to determine. Thus, for purposes of the present invention:

    • the center hardness of the inner core layer is measured according to the procedure below for measuring the center hardness of a core;
    • the hardness of the outer surface of the inner core layer is measured:
      • prior to surrounding the inner core layer with the outer core layer, according to the procedure below for measuring the outer surface hardness of a golf ball layer;
      • after surrounding the inner core layer with the outer core layer, according to the procedure below for measuring a point located 1 mm from an interface;
    • the hardness of the outer surface of the outer core layer is measured according to the procedure below for measuring the outer surface hardness of a golf ball layer.

The center hardness of a core is obtained according to the following procedure. The core is gently pressed into a hemispherical holder having an internal diameter approximately slightly smaller than the diameter of the core, such that the core is held in place in the hemispherical portion of the holder while concurrently leaving the geometric central plane of the core exposed. The core is secured in the holder by friction, such that it will not move during the cutting and grinding steps, but the friction is not so excessive that distortion of the natural shape of the core would result. The core is secured such that the parting line of the core is roughly parallel to the top of the holder. The diameter of the core is measured 90 degrees to this orientation prior to securing. A measurement is also made from the bottom of the holder to the top of the core to provide a reference point for future calculations. A rough cut is made slightly above the exposed geometric center of the core using a band saw or other appropriate cutting tool, making sure that the core does not move in the holder during this step. The remainder of the core, still in the holder, is secured to the base plate of a surface grinding machine. The exposed ‘rough’ surface is ground to a smooth, flat surface, revealing the geometric center of the core, which can be verified by measuring the height from the bottom of the holder to the exposed surface of the core, making sure that exactly half of the original height of the core, as measured above, has been removed to within ±0.004 inches. Leaving the core in the holder, the center of the core is found with a center square and carefully marked and the hardness is measured at the center mark according to ASTM D-2240. Additional hardness measurements at any distance from the center of the core can then be made by drawing a line radially outward from the center mark, and measuring the hardness at any given distance along the line, typically in 2 mm increments from the center. The hardness at a particular distance from the center should be measured along at least two, preferably four, radial arms located 180° apart, or 90° apart, respectively, and then averaged. All hardness measurements performed on a plane passing through the geometric center are performed while the core is still in the holder and without having disturbed its orientation, such that the test surface is constantly parallel to the bottom of the holder, and thus also parallel to the properly aligned foot of the durometer.

The outer surface hardness of a golf ball layer is measured on the actual outer surface of the layer and is obtained from the average of a number of measurements taken from opposing hemispheres, taking care to avoid making measurements on the parting line of the core or on surface defects, such as holes or protrusions. Hardness measurements are made pursuant to ASTM D-2240 “Indentation Hardness of Rubber and Plastic by Means of a Durometer.” Because of the curved surface, care must be taken to insure that the golf ball or golf ball subassembly is centered under the durometer indentor before a surface hardness reading is obtained. A calibrated, digital durometer, capable of reading to 0.1 hardness units is used for all hardness measurements and is set to take hardness readings at 1 second after the maximum reading is obtained. The digital durometer must be attached to, and its foot made parallel to, the base of an automatic stand. The weight on the durometer and attack rate conform to ASTM D-2240.

The hardness of a golf ball layer at a point located 1 mm from an interface is obtained according to the following procedure. First, the geometric center of the core is revealed by preparing the core according to the above procedure for measuring the center hardness of a core. Leaving the core in the holder, a point located 1 mm radially inward or outward from the interface of two layers is determined and marked, and the hardness thereof is measured according to ASTM D-2240. When measuring the outer surface of a layer, the mark is made at a point located 1 mm radially inward from the interface at the outermost part of the layer. When measuring the inner surface of a layer, the mark is made at a point located 1 mm radially outward from the interface at the innermost part of the layer.

Hardness points should only be measured once at any particular geometric location.

For purposes of the present invention, “negative” and “positive” refer to the result of subtracting the hardness value at the innermost surface of the golf ball component from the hardness value at the outermost surface of the component. For example, if the outer surface of a solid core has a lower hardness value than the center (i.e., the surface is softer than the center), the hardness gradient will be deemed a “negative” gradient.

Hardness gradients are disclosed more fully, for example, in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/832,163, filed on Aug. 1, 2007; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/939,632, filed on Nov. 14, 2007; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/939,634, filed on Nov. 14, 2007; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/939,635, filed on Nov. 14, 2007; and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/939,637, filed on Nov. 14, 2007; the entire disclosure of each of these references is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

EXAMPLES

It should be understood that the examples below are for illustrative purposes only. In no manner is the present invention limited to the specific disclosures herein.

Additional Examples of Suitable HNPs

The HNPs of Table 2 below have been found to be particularly useful as the relatively soft HNP and/or the relatively hard HNP of the present invention.

TABLE 2
Flexural Hardness**, Hardness**,
cation Modulus*, Shore C Shore D
Example source psi (18 day) (annealed)
1 Ca/Mg 71,600 88 57
2 Ca/Li 70,300 89 58
3 Ca 70,100 92 60
4 Ca/Zn 60,400 88 58
5 Mg 38,300 84 52
6 Mg 27,600 84 52
7 Mg 16,300 78 45
8 Mg 10,600 70 40
9 Mg 10,400 69 39
*Flexural modulus was measured according to ASTM D790-03 Procedure B.
**Hardness was measured according to ASTM D2240.

In embodiments of the present invention directed to a golf ball having an inner core layer formed from a relatively soft HNP composition, Examples 6-9 are particularly suitable for use as the relatively soft HNP composition.

In embodiments of the present invention directed to a golf ball having an outer core layer formed from a relatively soft HNP composition, Examples 5-9 are particularly suitable for use as the relatively soft HNP composition.

In embodiments of the present invention directed to a golf ball having an inner core layer formed from a relatively hard HNP composition, Examples 1-6 are particularly suitable for use as the relatively hard HNP composition.

In embodiments of the present invention directed to a golf ball having an outer core layer formed from a relatively hard HNP composition, Examples 1-4 are particularly suitable for use as the relatively hard HNP composition.

Additional Examples of Suitable Ionomeric Cover Layer Compositions

Twelve ionomeric inner cover layer compositions according to the present invention were prepared by melt blending Surlyn® 8150 and Fusabond® 572D in a twin screw extruder, at a temperature of at least 450° F. (230° C.). The relative amounts of each component used are indicated in Table 2 below.

Flex bars of each blend composition were formed and evaluated for hardness according to ASTM D2240 following 10 days of aging at 50% relative humidity and 23° C. The results are reported in Table 3 below.

TABLE 3
Surlyn ® Fusabond ® Shore C
8150, 572D, Hardness at
Example wt % wt % 10 Days
1 89 11 91.2
2 84 16 89.8
3 84 16 90.4
4 84 16 89.6
5 81 19 88.9
6 80 20 89.1
7 78 22 88.1
8 76 24 87.6
9 76 24 87.2
10 73 27 86.6
11 71 29 86.7
12 67 33 84.0

When numerical lower limits and numerical upper limits are set forth herein, it is contemplated that any combination of these values may be used.

All patents, publications, test procedures, and other references cited herein, including priority documents, are fully incorporated by reference to the extent such disclosure is not inconsistent with this invention and for all jurisdictions in which such incorporation is permitted.

While the illustrative embodiments of the invention have been described with particularity, it will be understood that various other modifications will be apparent to and can be readily made by those of ordinary skill in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Accordingly, it is not intended that the scope of the claims appended hereto be limited to the examples and descriptions set forth herein, but rather that the claims be construed as encompassing all of the features of patentable novelty which reside in the present invention, including all features which would be treated as equivalents thereof by those of ordinary skill in the art to which the invention pertains.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification473/376
International ClassificationA63B37/06
Cooperative ClassificationA63B37/0039, A63B37/0051, A63B37/0043, A63B2209/00, A63B37/0064, A63B37/0045, A63B37/0062, A63B37/0003, A63B37/0033, A63B37/02
European ClassificationA63B37/00G, A63B37/02, A63B37/00G8B, A63B37/00G10D6, A63B37/00G8D4, A63B37/00G8D6, A63B37/00G10D4, A63B37/00G6D6, A63B37/00G10B
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